innovators collaborating at work

10 Tips for Retaining Innovators and Creatives

Operating amid a stagnant business or industry environment or trying to make do with a lean staff amid growth (or whatever the scenario), can sometimes cause innovators to feel adrift or stuck while change happens.

Following are 10 tips to ensure your innovators and creatives are nourished and retained during these challenging periods.

1. Quiet Spaces.

Carve out quiet spaces for your innovators to innovate. Whether it be assigning them a separate office with a door they can close, or finding a separate space away from the hubbub to which they can escape, offering a concrete space for private thinking and innovating is necessary for creatives to create.

2. Time.

Building in time to the schedule may seem futile to the innovator if their calendar continually is packed with must-attend conference calls, webinars and other business meetings and events. Tuned-in leaders will note the need and take action to protect creatives’ calendars. This may be as simple as re-thinking the necessity of a creative’s attendance at routinely scheduled meetings. Perhaps a proxy may stand-in or maybe even, the meeting is no longer a necessity, at all.

3.  Support Staff.

Consider whether support staff might be hired or brought in from another department to directly allay the innovator’s plate from non-creative tasks.

4. Automation.

In addition to, or instead of, hiring support staff, consider what less critical, yet important aspects of the creative’s role can be automated to relieve them of non-essential tasks that are exhausting their energy and time. This may mean investing in technology software or hiring a programmer for up-front set-up, but if you calculate the potential return-on-investment and long-term gains, it can be worth it.

Perhaps ‘not’ doing so will stall new product development or cause customer service innovation to wane, negatively impacting goals in revenue and market share growth.

5. Conferences.

Whether sending them to a one-day energizing pow-wow with other innovators or investing in a several-day getaway to a work/play conference, investing in training and development can infuse innovators with new energy, and as importantly, new ideas.

Doing so also can instill a sense of hope amid challenges – particularly if your company or industry is dealing with hyper competition or other change pains. While competition can bring out the best in innovators, it also can become a weight that drags them down; leaders’ ability to help buoy their creative talents’ spirits amid challenge is important during these hard times.

6. Thank-Yous.

Saying thank you is an oft-repeated directive, and rightly so. Amid busy, deadline-heavy environments, thank-yous can get forgotten. If you keep a stash of personalized notecards on hand, then deploy them regularly to show your talent you appreciate them. In lieu of a hand-jotted note, consider an appreciative email or even a text. Maybe, even, a quick phone call or a visit to their office for an eye-to-eye thank you will provide the jolt of energy your forgotten creative may be needing.

7. Cash Bonus.

Offering a cash bonus based on specific and attainable directives is not just for sales professionals. What opportunities can you develop for your creatives to compete for and win cold hard cash? Consider also how you can make the competition with oneself versus with one’s peers. For example, give them a goal to create and get published XX number of articles in an elite industry magazine or to attain a specific certification.

8. Raise.

While it may seem counterintuitive to offer a raise to an employee during a down period, you may want to consider the potential upsides. While benefits and culture have gained much praise for their value in employee retention (and rightfully so), salary still matters. And if your innovator is feeling underpaid and undervalued, they may be dusting their resume off for greener grass.

9. Time Off.

Again, this may sound counterintuitive amid a challenged or depressed market, but time off from a non-stop, 24/7 schedule could be just the shot of rejuvenation your overworked innovator needs. Being tired or intellectually drained can lead to productivity slow-downs. Injecting a dose of revitalization can multiply productivity and results.

10.  Project Trim.

By turning down the flow of new projects, you enable creatives to slow down and dive deeper into existing projects. While certain constraints on creating can be good, including promoting focused and concise decision-making, too many constraints – including too little time to think and process – can create the opposite. Trimming down the number of new projects and/or deleting those projects which are weighing down overall forward movement can help resolve project overload.

For additional ideas on retaining your best employees while also avoiding the average 52-days it takes to fill an open position, check out Glassdoor’s Employee Retention Playbook.